GHSM’s Research Labs bring together work that cuts across the department’s research groups. Within these labs, GHSM researchers are developing novel approaches for social studies of health and medicine (the Urban Brain Lab), and for the governance of emerging technologies (e.g. FRRIL).
We also provide links here to some of the important networks that GHSM researchers have led in the past (ENSN, Bionet), and a link to an archive of the work of the BIOS Centre (several of the members of GHSM were previously researchers at BIOS, which was located at the London School of economics from 2003 to 2011 and directed by Nikolas Rose).
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In the face of perceived public concerns about technological innovations, leading national and international bodies increasingly recognize the need for dialogue between policy makers, scientific researchers and social actors in order to develop the technologies to address the grand challenges facing our societies in a way that meets social needs and gains public trust.
Major funding bodies, including the Horizon 2020 European Commission Research and Innovation programme, and the UK’s Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council, are addressing this issue by insisting on the integration of Responsible Research and Innovation (RRI) into funded research programmes. The aim is to ensure that the research and development that is funded is ethically acceptable, sustainable and focused on delivering societal benefits. At present, however, the mechanisms for implementing RRI remain largely unspecified. The EPSRC’s framework is a rare case of an explicitly articulated RRI framework.Researchers in SSHM have demonstrated weaknesses in previous models to ensure social responsibility in scientific research and technological development, and now seek to develop novel ways in which the concept of RRI can be translated into the governance of emerging technologies and into scientific practice itself. The Foresight and Responsible Research and Innovation Laboratory (FRRIL) aims to devise and implement such frameworks for applying the principles of RRI in emerging biotechnologies, focusing on the synthetic biology, novel neurotechnologies and cognitive enhancement.FRILL’s approach is consistent with the EPSRC’s definition of Responsible Innovation:
“Responsible Innovation is a process that seeks to promote creativity and opportunities for science and innovation that are socially desirable and undertaken in the public interest. Responsible Innovation acknowledges that innovation can raise questions and dilemmas, is often ambiguous in terms of purposes and motivations and unpredictable in terms of impacts, beneficial or otherwise”.
In the context of brain research, Professor Nikolas Rose explains that: "Responsible research and innovation aims to ensure that the social and scientific benefits of research of this type are maximized, for history has shown that the most robust research doesn’t hide from an engagement with the actual context of its applications but shows that it can stand up to challenges in the real world.”*
According to the EPSRC, a Responsible Innovation approach continuously seeks to:
Stilgoe, J., R. Owen and P. Macnaghten (2013). "Developing a framework for responsible innovation." Research Policy. The Journal for Responsible Innovation. http://www.tandfonline.com/loi/tjri20#.U-Sk2vldUlJ
*Source: Rose, N. (2014). "The Human Brain Project: social and ethical challenges." Neuron 82(6): 1212-1215. http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0896627314004917
The Centre for Synthetic Biology and Innovation (CSynBI) is a partnership between synthetic biology researchers at Imperial College London and social scientists at the Department of Social Science, Health and Medicine at King’s College London.
The creation of CSynBI was funded in 2009 by a 5-year EPSRC Award. Since then, the centre has attracted substantial funding from diverse sources and has become established as a key UK research centre for synthetic biology in the UK. It has also become the hub for wider networks, such as the Flowers Consortium and the SynbiCITE Innovation and Knowledge Centre.
Researchers in the Department of Global Health & Social Medicine form an integral part of CSynBI and the Flowers Consortium. Interaction between social science and synthetic biology researchers provides a novel foundation for a programme of research, training and dissemination that aims to enhance capabilities to understand the ways that developments in synthetic biology impact and shape the world around us. Through a combination of high quality social science research and engagement with policy, SSHM researchers seek to influence the trajectory of this emerging field of science and technology and contribute to the development of an appropriate governance regime.
Further information about grants that fund research at CSynBI@KCL.
CSynBI@KCL Research Team: Dr Filippa Lentzos, Professor Nikolas Rose, PhD Students
The human brain is one of the greatest challenges facing 21st century science. If we can rise to the challenge, we can gain profound insights into what makes us human, develop new treatments for brain disease and build revolutionary new computing technologies.Today, for the first time, modern ICT has brought these goals within sight.
The Human Brain Project is a ten-year project, consisting of a thirty month ramp -up phase, funded under FP7, with support from a special flagship ERANET, and a ninety-month operational phase, to be funded under Horizon 2020.
The project, which will have a total budget of over Euro 1 billion, is European led with a strong element of international cooperation.
The goal of the project is to build a completely new ICT infrastructure for neuroscience, and for brain related research in medicine and computing catalysing a global collaborative effort to understand the human brain and its diseases and ultimately to emulate its computational capabilities. A 10-year European initiative to understand the human brain enabling advances in neuroscience, medicine and future computing.
A consortium of 250+ Scientists, 135 Research Groups, from over 80 institutions, and more than 20 countries in Europe and beyond.
Our work in The Human Brain Project will be to identify and evaluate the potential impact of the new knowledge and technologies produced by the HBP, in terms of benefits to European citizens, European industry, the European economy and European society.
We will establish a Foresight Lab to conduct systematic foresight exercises to identify and evaluate these impacts. We will adapt and develop established foresight methods already in use in different areas of medicine and ICT, including modelling, horizon scanning and scenario planning.
The use of these methods will entail recurrent consultations with researchers, potential industrial and professional users of new technologies, civil society groups, regulators and other stakeholders.
The results, which will take the form of public Foresight Reports, will be widely disseminated, both within the HBP, and to public audiences, encouraging on-going reflection on the work of the project and the ethics of responsible innovation.
Consulting systematically with researchers, potential users of new technologies, civil society groups, regulators and other stakeholders, the lab will develop a set of social and economic scenarios, which will serve as frameworks for evaluating the possible consequences of the HBP on different areas of society.
The scenarios, with five, ten, and twenty years time horizons, will consider possible impacts in industry, employment, the health services, the legal system, education, the military and police, the media, leisure and consumer culture, psychiatry and self-help.
Developments in these areas will be monitored over the course of the HBP, and actual impacts will be fed back into Foresight models to increase accuracy and enable real-time technology assessment.
The results will be disseminated to researchers throughout the HBP, and debated by the HBP board, WP leaders and researchers. These discussions will help to fine-tune HBP research, increasing awareness of potential risks, helping to manage these risks and maximising clinical, industrial and social benefits.
More information on the project.
The Lab: The Urban Brain Lab is an experiment in resetting the relations between the sociological and neurobiological sciences.
Funded by an ESRC ‘Transforming Social Science’ grant, the Lab investigates ‘urbanicity’ – the connections between the social and the neurological lives of urban citizens, with particular attention to mental health.
The relationship between urban life and mental health has been a topic of longstanding interest in the social sciences – but is also now receiving particular attention within the neurobiological and psychiatric sciences, as investigators try to see whether the effects and process of city living can actually be measured at the level of the brain.
The Urban Brain Lab is an attempt to put these two interests together. It asks: can urban sociologists and neuroscientists work together, in order to better map the complex interactions between the socio-political life of the city and the development of psychiatric problems?
But as it pursues this question, the Lab is also trying to show that there may be room for a different kind of relationship between sociology and the biosciences. Aligning itself with what the microbiologists and physicist Carl Woese has called ‘a new biology for a new century,’ the Lab asks: what would it mean to also come up with ‘a new sociology for a new century’?
More information on the background and process.
Learn more about our vibrant research culture.
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